Ross Douthat on What We Need to Know About Libya In today's New York Times, Ross Douthat argues that, anyway you spin it, the U.S. has gone to war in Libya and, in his speech tonight, the president owes Americans the answer to four specific questions: 1) "What are our military objectives?" 2) " Who exactly are the rebels?" 3) "Can we really hand off this mission?" and 4) "Is Libya distracting us from more pressing American interests?" Douthat is concerned that, despite being presented as "time-limited, scope-limited," our military actions in Libya may be a bigger and longer-term commitment than we think. Also, early reports on Libyan rebels being "patriots and good Muslims who fought American forces in Iraq," make Douthat question who, exactly, "we're dropping bombs" for. Douthat wants to hear from Obama tonight "why, appearances to the contrary, the potential payoff from our Libyan war more than justifies the risk."
Robert Samuelson on the Public's Irrational Hatred of TARP The Washington Post's Robert Samuelson argues that while TARP--the Troubled Assets Relief Program--is one of the most publicly disliked government efforts, it's also one of the most successful. "Without TARP, we'd be worse off today," Samuelson argues. "No one can say whether unemployment would be 11 percent or 14 percent; it certainly wouldn't be 8.9 percent." Though bankers are, understandably, "blamed for the crisis and reviled," the majority of people who opposed the bank bailouts disregard the fact that "an alternative being promoted at the time was widespread nationalization of banks. The cost would have been many times higher; the practical problems would have been enormous." Instead, the Treasury has already almost broken even after rescuing the banks.
Geng He Appeals for Her Husband's Freedom Geng He addresses Barack Obama in the New York Times, today. He's husband, a Chinese lawyer who has been targeted by the government for representing persecuted religious observers, has been in the hands of the Chinese government, and presumably tortured, for almost a year. This isn't the first time He's husband has been captured for his efforts to defend human rights, and she gives details of the torture he's undergone in the past, pointing out that he "is only one of many political prisoners in China." The UN has recently demanded the release of her husband, though it is still unknown whether he is alive or dead. "I appeal to Mr. Obama--a father, lawyer and leader of the country that has become my family's new home-," she writes. "At the very least he should ask President Hu Jintao to let Zhisheng contact us," she writes. "If he has been killed, we should be allowed the dignity of laying him to rest."
John Sununu on the Necessity of Perspective John Sununu, former New Hampshire senator and Boston Globe contributor, emphasizes the importance of perspective, and the media's obligation, as a presumably reliable source, to provide perspective for us in times of crisis. "The events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility triggered by the March 11 earthquake constitute the second-worst civilian nuclear plant incident eve--far more significant in scope than Three Mile Island. But it pales in comparison to the devastation, loss, and human suffering caused by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami," Sununu writes, arguing that the media's obsessive radiation coverage has not made this truth clear. "When individuals lose perspective, they make poor choices about their personal lives, safety, or finances. When the mass media lose perspective, it’s another matter altogether," Sununu explains. "We are left with public policy driven by emotion and misperception, which costs us all in terms of time, effort, money, and lives." He points to the far greater toll taken by malaria than the earthquake or nuclear leak.
James Harkin on iPad Evangelism James Harkin compares the devotion some consumers feel toward Apple products and HBO programs to the zealotry of religious evangelism. "Both Apple and HBO have triumphed by producing original, high-end stuff at a time when many of their competitors were travelling in the opposite direction," Harkin notes, arguing that, "More than simply products, gadgets like the iPad and programs like The Wire have become badges--ways to identify ourselves in a world in which the traditional ways of classifying us by social class and mainstream religion are losing their purchase." He suggests that such devout customer loyalty might signal how other retailers should approach their products if they want to succeed. "With an infusion of missionary zeal our high streets might even be on the cusp of a new age of performance, talk and entertainment."